The very fabric of downtown Nashville started to turn when the Nashville Predators made their first-ever trip to the Stanley Cup Final in June.
Was Music City a hockey town before that moment? It's quite possible it was - maybe even likely - but either way, it certainly was afterward. There was no going back.
The deep postseason run accelerated what Preds executives had forecasted for years, that just given the right exposure, the game of hockey - which they believed in so fervently - would catch fire; that a generation which grew up knowing Nashville as a professional sports town would hold the Predators as one of the city's crowning achievements.
First, the Preds swept the No. 1 seeded and heavily favored Chicago Blackhawks at the end of April. May arrived and Nashville went further than they ever had before, knocking off the St. Louis Blues to advance to the Western Conference Final. Suddenly, fans who had only attended a game or two during the regular season needed seats for every playoff game.
The answer was simple: become a Preds Season-Ticket Citizen (a season-ticket holder) and have the first shot at any available playoff tickets.
That's how the Predators saw their season-ticket holder base swell by more than 2,500 during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The tipping point had finally been reached.
For the first time in franchise history, the Predators had to overhaul their process for selling season tickets. In late January, a Season Tickets Waitlist launched. With a limited inventory available inside Bridgestone Arena, the Preds had to ensure a system was in place for Preds fans who wanted to be certain they wouldn't miss the next postseason run.
To date, about 1,000 people have put down their first payment to join the Waitlist and are set to become full Season-Ticket Citizens in 2018-19.
Likewise, existing Preds Season-Ticket Citizens have renewed their season tickets at an expected rate of more than 90 percent, with many of them signing three-year deals. That group will get 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff tickets as long as they sign up by March 6.
Fans on the Waitlist - as future Season-Ticket Citizens - are guaranteed playoff tickets in 2019, but as an added benefit, they'll also be granted 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs limited purchasing opportunities.
All that demand adds up to the arrival of the time Preds executives, like Nat Harden, believed would come, even after nearly two decades of the Predators' time in Nashville.
"I always believed we would get to this point, because I knew the game was exciting enough to warrant it, it's just that not enough people knew that yet," said Harden, the Preds Senior Vice President of Ticket Sales, Premium Sales & Youth Hockey. "Just not enough people had been exposed to hockey in Nashville and it took 20 years, but after that playoff run, I think Nashville has seen how awesome it truly is."
Harden estimates the Predators will hit their Season-Ticket Citizen goal of 13,000 this season, a feat the franchise has never accomplished before. In the span of two years, the Predators have added roughly 6,000 Season-Ticket Citizens.
Video: Remain a Citizen of Smashville for years to come
"Our season-ticket base grew to a point where we wanted to keep some seats available for single-game buyers and groups coming in so we can continue to make new fans," Harden said. "We capped our season-ticket base this year. For the first time, we couldn't guarantee that anyone that wanted season tickets could have them, so we created the Waitlist. It's all predicated on how high our season tickets base currently is."
Harden stresses the only way to guarantee a fan can be a part of the Predators' next run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is to renew their existing season-tickets package and purchase playoff tickets by March 6 or to sign up for the Waitlist by the same date.
Current Season-Ticket Citizens, who have renewed, will have the opportunity to change or upgrade their seats on March 11. Fans on the Waitlist will then select their seats on March 12.